Mark Willis returns to Keller Williams

Willis will serve as a strategic consultant at the firm

After seven years away from the firm, a viral Twitter hashtag and a legal battle resulting in a temporary restraining order, former Keller Williams president and CEO Mark Willis is back.

The Austin, Texas-based brokerage announced Willis’ return in a press release on Wednesday. Willis will serve as a strategic consultant at the company.

“For over 32 years, Mark has served across all levels of leadership within KW,” Gary Keller, the co-founder and executive chairman of KW, said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue on our successful path together.”

Marc King, the firm’s current president, added: “In an industry that has changed so dramatically in the last five to 10 years, it is great to have someone who knows our systems, culture, and people so well.”

Willis joined KW from Coldwell Banker in 1991, serving as a regional director, operating principal and team leader. In 2002, he joined the firm’s executive team, serving a president, before a nine-year stint as CEO from 2005 to 2014. He left the company in 2016.

“No one cares more about the agent than Keller Williams,” Willis said in a statement. “I have a long-term appreciation for the culture and the leadership across this great company. I’m home at Keller Williams and there’s no better place to be in this industry. It’s where I belong, with the people and the relationships I cherish. We’re going to build on the strong foundational relationships within the company and deepen them. I’m excited about the future, as the opportunity for entrepreneurs to thrive has never been better. And we’re leaning into it.” 

In early 2022, Willis was tapped by eXp Realty to take an executive-level position at the brokerage. However, in February 2022, a judge in Austin, Texas, issued a restraining order against Willis, preventing him from joining eXp Realty or doing business with any real estate brokerage in the United States or Canada viewed as direct competition to Keller Williams.

In legal filings, Gary Keller’s firm claimed that Willis’ role as a stake holder in three different KW franchises gave him unfettered access to information provided to franchise owners, from granular financial metrics and client leads to overall business strategy. As such, Keller Williams argued Willis could share confidential information with eXp Realty, thereby inflicting “irreparable damage” on Keller Williams.

An eXp spokesperson told RealTrends in February 2022 that Willis wanted to divest from the franchises, but Keller Williams would not allow him.

“During the course of eXp Realty’s discussions with Mark Willis, we came to understand that he has been a passive investor in one or more Keller Williams franchises or regions, with no management responsibility for several years,” the eXp spokesperson said. “We also learned that Mark Willis was attempting to divest his interests in these Keller Williams entities and is still attempting to do so if Keller Williams will allow it.”

Asked if the brokerage prevented Willis from divesting in order to keep him from joining eXp, a KW spokesperson responded with a written statement:

“Mark Willis is a current co-owner of two Keller Williams regions and a market center. Due to his current ownership interests, Mr. Willis has non-competition obligations in place with Keller Williams.”

“As a result,” the statement continued, “The company filed this lawsuit to enforce the agreements and protect the interests of his franchise partners and Keller Williams.”

In an emailed statement, Darryl Frost, a Keller Williams spokesperson said Wednesday that the lawsuit had been “resolved some time ago, and the terms are confidential.”

Frost added: “Mark’s new role within KW is unrelated to the previous lawsuit regarding Mark’s obligations as a franchise owner.”